Konerko helps White Sox pay tribute to Jeter
Club gives gifts in pregame ceremony to Yanks' captain, who then notches four hits
CHICAGO -- Four days worth of standing ovations and well-deserved plaudits thrown in the direction of Derek Jeter culminated Sunday afternoon with the White Sox honoring the Yankees' captain before his last game at U.S. Cellular Field, which resulted in a 7-1 New York victory.
The ceremony began approximately 30 minutes before first pitch with a video tribute to Jeter played on the center-field scoreboard and then moved quickly into the gift portion. Jeter received a Yankees bench made out of bats and balls, expertly crafted by Ron Kittle, who played for both the White Sox and Yankees during his 10-year big league career.
Jeter also was given infield clay removed three days ago from shortstop of the U.S. Cellular Field infield, along with a plaque featuring his name listed among the Hall of Fame shortstops and likely future Hall of Fame shortstops to play in the history of Comiskey Park and the current White Sox venue.
That list consisted of Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese, Luis Aparicio, Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Boudreau, Phil Rizzuto, Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Robin Yount, Omar Vizquel and Jeter. The team then presented a check for $5,000 to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.
Paul Konerko represented the White Sox in the gift presentations, with the two shaking hands and embracing behind home plate. It seems only fitting that one captain would help salute another, with Konerko coming to the end of his 16-year run with the White Sox at the close of the '14 campaign.
"I was happy that Konerko was out there," Jeter said. "He's a guy that you know I respect as much as anyone in the game and what he's done for that organization."
"Throughout baseball, they have similar respect from opposing players," said Robin Ventura, who played alongside Jeter and has managed Konerko for the past three seasons. "That's one thing that they have [in common] -- the respect of the way they went about their business when they play and being there every day."
A sellout crowd of 39,142 in attendance for the finale of this four-game series gave Jeter a standing ovation, while the White Sox and their coaching staff stood on the top step of their dugout applauding. Jeter tipped his cap to the fans and the opposition and then notched three singles and a triple for his 45th career game with four or more hits.
Another standing ovation came for Jeter prior to his last at-bat in the eighth. The crowd stood and cheered again after Scott Carroll struck out Jeter.
Honoring Jeter certainly was warranted. The man has produced 3,362 hits, while contributing to five World Series titles, all the while handling a taxing position such as shortstop in New York for two decades. Jeter has been as classy and important to the game off the field as he has been productive on the field.
But such a celebration comes with its own case of weird dynamics.
When Jeter was getting his final standing ovation, Carroll didn't know whether to stand behind the mound and let Jeter take it in for a few moments or get right back into action. Catcher Tyler Flowers said that when Jeter received his first ovation Thursday night, he turned to the White Sox catcher and the home-plate umpire and said, 'All right. Let's go. Let's go.'"
"Of course he likes the spotlight, so to speak, because he's always in it, but he doesn't want it necessarily," said Flowers. "He comes up to the plate, asks me how I'm doing, all that. He still respects the game, respects everyone in it, plays the right way. It just seems to be first class all the way, it's not a show. He really is a good guy."
Barring a postseason series, Jeter's final moment on the U.S. Cellular Field diamond was an Alejandro De Aza line drive to Alfonso Soriano in right. It simply represents the end of one small part of the great baseball run in Jeter's life.
"You even look at the start of the game and everything that happened before the game, it's a little weird," Ventura said. "I mean, you see that happen, but he's not dying, he's just retiring. I'm sure it's uncomfortable for him going through all of it, but he's a great player.
"It's totally warranted but it's a little weird. Seeing it today, you hear about it, but seeing it today, it is a little weird because he's just going to start living."
Jeter agreed with Ventura, saying he's not going to fall off the face of the earth after retirement. But he appreciated the gifts and the Chicago sentiment.
"I've always enjoyed coming to Chicago and playing here," said Jeter, who is a career .299 hitter against the White Sox. "I haven't played at Wrigley too much, but every year coming here, it's one of my favorite cities. The way the fans have treated me these two series here, it's been tremendous. It's something I'll always remember.
"I never expect anything. I don't expect things when I go to different cities and different stadiums. Fans have always been respectful. Even earlier in my career, they may hate the Yankees or cheer against us, but they've always been respectful."